Equisetum scirpoides (Dwarf Scouring Rush)

Plant Info
Also known as: Dwarf Horsetail
Family:Equisetaceae (Horsetail)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist woods, peat bogs, shady, mossy wetlands
Fruiting season:summer
Plant height:1 to 8 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Leaves and stems:

[photo of stem and sheath] Sterile stems are multiple from the base, evergreen, have no branches, and bend/coil/twist into a contorted tangle. The “leaves” are reduced to a sheath that surrounds the stem, with 3 black/brown teeth around the top that have distinct white edges and persist all season. There is a black band just above the base of the sheath.

Fruit: Fruit type: spores on stalk

[photo of developing cone] Fertile stems are like the sterile stems but distinguished by the cone, less than ¼ inch long, at the tip of the stem. Cones have a sharp-pointed tip, mature in late summer or may over-winter and release spores the following spring.


Dwarf Scouring Rush spreads both by spores and rhizomes, typically seen as numerous clumps in close proximity to each other. There are other species of Equisetum in Minnesota that have no branches, but Equisetum scirpoides is not likely to be confused with them. The slender, curled/twisted stems are unique. Perhaps a more fitting common name is “Medusa's head”.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Falls Creek SNA, Washington County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Roseau and Washington counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Deane - Itasca State Park
on: 2016-03-25 21:41:32

Scattered but easy to find in the bog on Dr. Roberts Trail, and large patches in moist areas off Nicollet Trail.

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